Big Meet brings big prep for track and field teams

GVL / Robert Mathews
Sophmore Pole Vaulter Caley Faulkner.

Robert Mathews

GVL / Robert Mathews Sophmore Pole Vaulter Caley Faulkner.

Zach Sepanik

In what has become an annual tradition since the Kelly Family Sports Center was completed four years ago, the Grand Valley State University Big Meet is a platform for the men’s and women’s track and field teams to prepare for the postseason.

“It is always a weekend that most teams focus on competing at a high level,” said GVSU men’s and women’s track and field head coach Jerry Baltes. “It is the last big competition prior to the conference meet because most of the time, the week before conference is just used as a tune-up or low key meet to get ready for the conference meet.”

But what exactly did the team do in years before the new facility was built?

“Prior to having the Turf Building, we would have to travel to a meet to get the competition, a good track, to put our student-athletes in the best situation to compete at a high level,” Baltes said. “When we did that, it was really hard to take a lot of kids. We took small groups and it cost a lot of money and they were missing class. So, we said let’s make this a big weekend for us at home.”

The Big Meet has attracted top teams from the Big 10, including Purdue University, the University of Michigan and Michigan State University, as well as other Division I programs such as Western Kentucky University, the University of Southern Illinois, and Indiana State University.

However, teams from all over the country have, and will, make the trip including the Colorado School of Mines, California State University in Los Angeles, Angelo State University in Texas and Harding University in Arkansas.

“It is a great meet that brings a lot of great competition from Division I all the way down to Division III,” said senior sprinter Xavier Parnell, who has participated in the Big Meet since the inaugural race. “The first day
of the invite is pretty much as deep as it is going to get as far as competition we will see this season. On day two, it will still provide that great competition.”

While GVSU has had the privilege to compete against top competition already this season at the Indiana University Relays, the Big Meet provides yet another opportunity for strong performances against the best in the Midwest.

“We are getting ready for our conference meet in two weeks and are looking to get a good standing going into conference,” said sophomore sprinter Kalena Franklin. “We want to compete fast so that we are hitting better times. It is more us getting ready and finding out if you can hit this mark, then you can go beyond it.”

With to compete at home on Friday and Saturday, coaches and athletes alike find it to be no better time to step up to the plate and produce quality results.

“Having the home facility gives us a lot of advantages in training and competition,” Baltes said. “We talked about focusing on themselves and taking advantage of the opportunity. Basically, focusing on themselves and controlling what they can control. We have to find that mixture of comfort knowing we have a great opportunity, but going out and making it happen as well and not just expecting it to happen